Pat Gage – Entrepreneur – Santa Rosa Junior College

Santa Rosa Junior College graduate Pat Gage had a goal to bring a line of seasonings from her kitchen to those of millions of women (and men) who also were balancing the demands of cooking healthier foods with less time.

Gage and business partner Elizabeth Bertani started Parsley Patch, a salt-free seasoning company in 1980 and now, after selling the company to McCormick & Company Inc. and recovering the recipes and brand decades later, Gage has returned to the seasoning business and created Engage Organics based in Potter Valley, CA., northeast of Ukiah.

Gage said her associate degree from Santa Rosa Junior College and her bachelor’s degree from Sonoma State University helped broaden her horizons, which in turn helped her as an entrepreneur.

"Going to college exposed me to a lot and made me a well-rounded person," said Gage, who later earned a master’s degree in English literature from California State University, Chico. "College taught me how to set goals and persevere. We live in such a global economy and college helps you understand the world, to get that awareness, and that has helped me in business."

Gage built the Parsley Patch brand with the help of her son, Jason Sherwood, who she said became an entrepreneur-in-training by filling sample bags, manning trade shows and making deliveries. It was not long before the demand for Gage’s healthy, high-quality seasonings became popular with famous chefs and everyday cooks alike.

Parsley Patch soon garnered shelf space in supermarkets next to large companies such as McCormick, Lawry’s, Schillings and Mrs. Dash, all paying big dollars for their shelf space.

In 1987, McCormick approached Gage and her husband, Jon Gage, with yet another buy-out offer. Jon Gage had earlier bought out Bertani’s half of the company.

The Gage’s sold Parsley Patch to McCormick & Company Inc. with one big contractual stipulation: McCormick & Company Inc. had to commit to funding the Parsley Patch Charitable Foundation with a portion of Parsley Patch sales. The charitable foundation was a cornerstone of the business and ultimately the huge conglomerate committed to donating a percentage of the sale of each jar to the foundation.

After selling Parsley Patch, Gage’s entrepreneurial spirit continued when she opened a couple of businesses in Park City, Utah, including a destination spa, sold soy beverages marketed to women, started an Internet marketing venture and now focuses on Engage Organics.

Saddened by the long decline of the brand under different ownership, the Gage’s decided to resurrect the blends and focus on the use of organic ingredients in the eight types of salt-less seasonings they now sell. Many of the seasonings that were available under the Parsley Patch label are back but now under the Engage Organics name. The iconic angel with a scythe remains on each bottle sold and Pat Gage’s family has become integral catalysts for the re-launch of the seasonings business. Her son, Jason, is involved in every aspect of the start-up phase of Engage Organics.